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Reflection on Matthew 13:44-46

One of my favorite areas in my childhood home was the junk drawer. This is where our family put all the random parts, tools, and miscellaneous items when nowhere else made sense. Usually the items were small, perhaps of relatively little value, yet they carried just enough potential value to warrant keeping this stuff around: need an odd-sized battery? Check that drawer. Need a flashlight? Check that drawer. Need a tiny bungee-cord or carabiner?

You get the point.

Of course if one consistently finds too many random, under-utilized items like that around the house, it means its time for a yard sale. Everyone loves a good yard sale; after all, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The very nature of the garage sale implies finding a good deal, as people usually have yard sales in order to clear up space and get rid of things they aren’t using, i.e. things they clearly don’t need. These are the things of less value to the seller’s life at the moment, yet they could be of some–or perhaps even great value–to someone else who visits the yard sale.

Before we dive into the text this week in Matthew 13, consider for a moment: what are some of your most valuable (or valued) possessions? Smart phones probably (if embarrassingly) rank high for most people reading this, in terms of something we just can’t or wouldn’t leave home without. What about our vehicles? Our houses? Maybe some heirloom jewelry, or special items that are hard to get. (Bob Dylan once sang, “People say everything can be replaced, yet every distance is not near.”) What are your most prized possessions at this point in your life? Another way to consider this is: if your dwelling place, heaven forbid, were to catch fire—and you could only save one inanimate object from the flames—what would it be? 

One more to question to consider is: what’s something that you don’t have at the moment, but you really wish you could get? If you could get anything in the world that you don’t already have, what would that be?

The Infinite, Eternal Value of the Kingdom

According to Jesus, nothing in this world is of greater value than the Kingdom (or reign or rule) of God. In Matthew 13 Jesus tells eight Kingdom parables, a couple of which hinge upon a person finding an item of incredible value. The first parable is about a peasant; the second one is about a merchant. They are very brief and similar:

Matt. 13:44   “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Matt. 13:45-46   “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;  on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In these two parables the items of great value are worth more than everything else in the person’s life. In the first one, a peasant finds treasure in the field; in the second, a merchant finds a pearl. In both parables, the individuals go and sell all that they own in order to purchase that single other thing, which they have found to be worth more than all of that other items they own, combined. 

Likewise, Jesus says the value of the reign of God is so great that it should compel us to abandon everything else in pursuit of this one goal. Just like the people in the story, the proper response for you and I, upon hearing the good news of the kingdom, is to place God’s mission above everything else before us. This is why Jesus can say such radical things as He does in Matthew 10:37-39, for example:

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” 

Such is a promise available to every person on the face of the planet, right now, for anyone reading. Jesus has already stated it in other ways in Matthew’s Gospel: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

The question then, is, are we willing to take Jesus’ words and His invitation here seriously? (It is serious, for it is all-or-nothing, considering Revelation 3:16) What, if anything, is holding us back, especially for those of us who already would identify ourselves as followers of Jesus?

What would it look like for us to take Jesus’ words seriously everyday and rely on God for our daily needs? What would it look like to offer up more of ourselves and of our possessions, in order to bless our neighbors and put their need above our own? What would it look like to go an extra mile in your life, or to carry the cross?

Here are a couple of passages from Psalms to consider as you seek to answer this question for your own life and context:

Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.” (Psalm 113:5-8)

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . . the Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” (Psalm 146:7-9)

May the Lord bless you as you consider these things and pursue His truth and His will for your life. Grace and peace.